Atlet withdraws from North America

News Story
- 6 Oct 2011 ( #534 ) - Anaheim, CA, United States
3 min read
Atlet AB's effort to sell European-style specialised materials handling equipment and methods in North America is turning a corner.

"After almost 25 years of sales and support activity in the North American warehouse truck market, the Atlet group has made a strategic decision to close its operations for this region," executives say in a statement. "This closure will happen in stages" between 31 August and 31 December.

Bengt Kristiansson, president of the subsidiary Atlet Inc in Anaheim, California, is responsible for wrapping up the business. "We have allocated more than six months" to terminate Atlet Inc operations, he notes. Atlet had endeavoured to create a network of independent dealers, consultants and agents of support of its materials handling product line for the North American market.

"Atlet has arranged with our sister company, Nissan Forklift Corp North America (NFCNA), to provide service, parts and other technical support" through the NFCNA headquarters facility in Marengo, Illinois and certain dealerships including some Nissan Forklift locations, Kristiansson says. Atlet has service contracts with certain customers.

Atlet stopped offering Atlet-branded equipment to the North American market on 1 September.

Atlet Inc has operated through headquarters and administrative offices in California and a central distribution and parts facility in Schaumburg, Illinois. Marengo absorbed the Schaumburg functions in May.

Ten staff reported to the Anaheim office, including three field service technicians. Two staff worked in Schaumburg.

Managers of Atlet Inc and NFCNA are "in discussions with Atlet customers, the end-users of the trucks and some of those businesses currently providing service" for Atlet equipment, says John Hoyle, vice president of corporate administration for NFCNA. "That is a key part of this transition. Even though Atlet is exiting the US market, there are still a number of Atlet trucks in the marketplace to be serviced for those customers."

Kristiansson says Atlet sales have followed market trends. "Now the market is expanding," he reports. "This year is relatively good" with Atlet serving "companies in need of more space" and a willingness to employ high-efficiency methods.

But Atlet in North America has experienced volatility in its sales with "some very good years" and "some very bad years".

Kristiansson crystalises one of the problems: "We are a small organisation, and (the US) is a big country."

He splits the transition time now between Sweden and the US. Kristiansson's regular position is vice president of marketing for Atlet AB, which has headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Mölnlycke, near Göteborg in Sweden.

The Atlet product line includes reach trucks, pedestrian stackers, order pickers, pallet jacks and counterbalance forklifts.

Atlet AB has roots back to 1958 when Knut Jacobsson started Elitmaskiner in Göteborg to make forklifts, initially pallet trucks, for indoor applications. Elitmaskiner, a Swedish word that means "elite machines", changed its name to Atlet in 1966.

Other lines were added later. Jacobsson, for example, invented a pedestrian stacker with lifting capacity comparable to telescopic reach trucks and usability in narrower aisles. The key technology: patented side stabilisers.

The North American closure has no impact on Atlet operations elsewhere. In addition to the US, Atlet AB has subsidiaries in Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany and retailers in 36 other countries. Atlet has particular strength in Eastern European countries such as Russia and Ukraine and the Middle East region, Kristiansson says.

Prior to the closure decision, NFCNA arranged to have Atlet AB commit to build two materials handling equipment models - an order picker and a walkie pallet jack - for North American distribution under either the Nissan or Barrett brand, depending on customer preference. "We have a few orders so far," Hoyle reports.

The forklift subsidiary of Nissan Motor Co acquired Atlet AB in 2007. Nissan Motor spun off its industrial machinery business in establishing Nissan Forklift Co Ltd effective 1 October 2010. NFCNA is a unit of the new Nissan Forklift entity.
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Briefs News Story - 25 Oct 2007 - 2 min read
Nissan Forklift buys OEM partner News Story - 6 Sep 2007 - GOTHENBURG, Sweden - 2 min read
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